Children tell police: Wear your heart on the sleeve

NEW DELHI, FEB. 26. For the 65-odd street and working children from across the Capital, it was a new experience altogether. And to be sure, the Crime against Women wing of Delhi Police DCP, David L. Sanga, and Inspector Surinder had a tough time answering the queries of children at an interface organised here on Wednesday.

Children raised questions relating to harassment by the police, shopkeepers, watchmen and other members of the community. Sunita (name changed), a 15-year-old rag picker from Yusuf Sarai, recounted how she had been a victim of police insensitivity. She was caught with a manhole cover which, she alleged, she had not stolen. Police registered an FIR against her but failed to produce her before the juvenile court in time. Consequently, she could not get bail and was shifted to Nirmal Chaya for seven days. Moreover, on the day of the arrest she was kept alone in the police station at night and the police even asked for bribe.

Eight-year-old Yusuf from Vasant Kunj revealed that he was a school-going child and had to earn money for his education. But the police snatch away much of what he earns as a result of which he was unable to pay his school fees. He said the police also beat his parents and he felt helpless and harassed. He sought help from the police and wanted to know how he could safeguard his rights.

Shanti (name changed), aged 9, from Okhla Mandi said she was stopped several times by men asking for sexual favours and it was very difficult for a working girl to survive on the streets. Her father was blind and she is the only earning member in her family. Like her, 16-year-old Luxmi said she was a rag picker in the Green Park area. The watchmen and police seek favour for permission to work in the area. They use abusive language which hurts her a lot. She wanted to know when rag pickers are helping in keeping the surroundings clean, why are they accused of stealing.

After listening patiently to the children, Mr. David said the CAW cell was primarily working for women but it had recently extended its activity to the girl child. He said the Cell could be contacted by children, especially the girl child, on 1091 or they could register their complaint in writing to Post Box no. 5353. He said currently there was no help line for boys but in case of any problem they can call CAW at 24673366.

Mr. David said the CAW was in the process of preparing handouts and pamphlets that would clarify its role. He said the Delhi police had appointed two Juvenile officers in each police station. The Juvenile officers will be the link persons between the community, police and the courts.

He also said in case of any harassment by the police, children could directly contact the SHO or ADCP or DCP of their area. In case they do not get response they could write to Commissioner of Police at P.B. No. 171.

Ms. Surinder, Inspector CAW, said the Cell was giving training for self-defence especially to women and children and was planning to extend its mobile services for their benefit.

Mr. Sanjay Gupta, Director of Childhood Enhancement through Training and Action (CHETNA), who facilitated the interface said the idea was to bridge the gap between children and the police and more specifically to request CAW to extend its work in favour of children who represent 35 per cent of the population of Delhi.